Sunday, January 3, 2021

REVIEW: 'Call Me Kat' - Kat Is Unapologetically Herself No Matter What Society Dictates Her to Be in 'Plus One'

FOX's Call Me Kat - Episode 1.01 "Plus One"

Kat struggles every day against society and her mother to prove that she can live a happy and fulfilling life, despite still being single at 39. Which is why she recently spent her entire savings to open a cat café in Louisville, Kentucky. Although Kat celebrates her independence, her single-forever plans may begin to veer off-course, when her former crush and good friend, Max, returns to town.

In 2019, the television industry aired 532 scripted shows across numerous outlets. The way people consume content now is different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, it's less necessary to provide ample coverage of each episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site provides shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the series premiere of FOX's Call Me Kat.

"Plus One" was written by Darlene Hunt and directed by Beth McCarthy-Miller

It's clear right away that this comedy wants to distinguish itself from all the other sitcoms on the broadcast networks at the moment. Kat breaking the fourth wall and talking to the audience repeatedly accomplishes that. It's not a brand new idea. It's not as common in the medium as it once was. However, plenty of shows still do it. If it has a purpose, it can be quite fun as well. Here, it presents the concept that this is fundamentally Kat's story. She is the one detailing events to the audience. She is the one allowed to have nuanced and multi-layered reactions to whatever is going on. However, the device grows tiring by the end of this premiere. That may not be a hopeful sign of what's to come. It simply feels like it is reaching for the easy jokes that reaffirm the simplicity of the humor and the world view of the character. Now, Kat can absolutely be seen as a compelling lead. She is unapologetically herself - which includes plenty of quirks and social anxiety. She talks about being happy in her life because of the friends she has surrounded herself with and running her cat café in Louisville. She doesn't need a relationship in order to feel fulfilled in her life. She has found joy and happiness in other ways. She is proud of that fact. She doesn't need to burden herself because she is failing at what a certain section of society deems is necessary in order to find that kind of personal fulfillment. It has created resentment and distance in her relationship with her mother. Sheila feels embarrassed being around her daughter because she has gone outside the norms of what this society demands from its women. That makes Kat an empowering figure. However, all of that clashes with the clear intentions of Max returning to town and Kat having an intense crush on him. It does establish that she still wants a relationship in order to feel less lonely at times. That is all that that could potentially be. She doesn't need a man in order to fulfill every desire she has in life. It's just one part of her. It's still important. It just hasn't been a priority. The narrative makes it that though. As such, the story falls into the conventions of what the audience can expect. It wants to be radical in depicting a woman who doesn't define her value through romance. But it also wants to follow the familiar structure of the two leads having a dynamic full of sexual chemistry that they could act upon at any moment. That's basically all that Max amounts to at this moment. Kat doesn't particularly care to hear about what his life has been like over the past decade. She is simply awkward around him and he gets her humor nevertheless. He is positioned as the perfect guy because he views the world in the same way that she does. That is confirmed only through their witty banter and him prioritizing comfort over being stunning in clothes. The show is simplistic in this plotting. It confirms the basics. It feels familiar. That can absolutely change over time. It may be difficult to break free of these boundaries though because so much of the story is defined by Kat. Phil certainly has agency. He is given a personal backstory that parallels Kat's and makes them kindred spirits who enjoy having fun together. That depth is lacking elsewhere in the ensemble with Sheila, Randi, Carter and Tara. That all may change in time. That is always the biggest difficulty when it comes to comedy pilots. The audience expects it to be funny. The characters need to pop right away. And yet, it's frequently much more likely that humor extends from the audience coming to know the characters over a longer period of time. It's rare for a show to be given that luxury. And so, something has to spark interest right away. That again goes back to the breaking the fourth wall conceit. How that is prioritized moving forward may determine just how effective the story ultimately becomes. It needs to have a more varied response. Yes, Mayim Bialik is charming and compelling as the lead. That doesn't immediately create a show that is worthy of viewing and discussing though.